The Osprey Pandion haliaetus, is a large bird of prey found by bodies of fresh water all over the world. They are raptors and their diet consists mostly of fish. They can reach 24 inches inches in length and have a wingspan that can reach up to 71 inches! Other names they go by are the Sea Hawk, Fish Hawk, or Fish Eagle. The Osprey almost became non-existent in many areas of the United States due to use of the DDT pesticide after World War II. This pesticide interfered with calcium production during reproduction, resulting in thin-shelled eggs which were easily broken or infertile eggs. DDT was banned in 1972 and since then populations of Osprey have come back to many bodies of water.
Below is a live camera showing a nest of Osprey in Missoula, Montana. The camera was set here to aid in the Project Osprey which is studying these birds.
Project Osprey is a study going on at the University of Montana. It is investigating inorganic contaminants such as mercury in these birds and using the results to help determine environmental health in surrounding areas. These large raptors are useful in determining environmental conditions in local lakes and rivers because they are at the top of the food chain and eat primarily fish obtained from these bodies of water. Therefore what is contained in these birds is also contained in the fish they eat and in the environment the fish live in. The project has been ongoing for for six breeding seasons now and a study detailing the mercury and other contaminants found in Osprey in the Clark Fork River Basin has been published.
If you would like to see pictures of other wild birds, check out Animal-Image.
Earlier this week, it was reported that the last remaining giant Pinta Island Tortoise Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni, had died. His name was Lonesome George and he was around 100 years old, which isn’t particularly old for a tortoise. He was approximately 200 pounds and 5 feet long. This is indeed sad news for the world, as yet another endangered species is most probably extinct.
It is not sure why he died, however they believe he may have suffered a heart attack. His caretaker, Fausto Llerena, found him stretched out towards his watering hole. An autopsy is planned to determine the cause of death.
These tortoises are thought to have originated over 10 million years ago and Lonesome George is believed to have been the last of his particular subspecies. Their home and where they were discovered was the Galapagas Islands. However they (along with many of the other animals there) were almost hunted to extinction by seal hunters and whalers in the 19th century.
Lonesome George was discovered in 1972, at a time when his kind were already thought to be extinct. At that point they relocated him from his current home on Pinta Island, to Santa Cruz Island to live out his life with his caretaker. Attempts to breed him were made several times, however were never successful. Hence his name, Lonesome George!
The Galapagos National Park Service is planning an international workshop sometime in July to begin looking at strategies for increasing and restoring populations of tortoises over the next 10 years.
Animal-World’s Featured Animal for this week is:
The Saltwater Crocodile!
Photo Wiki Commons
Courtesy Molly Ebersold of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
Licensed under Public Domain.
The Saltwater Crocodile is the most dangerous and aggressive animal in northern Australia!
I know that normally I do my weekly featured pet on an actual pet, however this week I decided to switch it up a bit and do a post on an animal that is definitely not considered a pet – the saltwater crocodile! I find these creatures absolutely fascinating and they have recently grabbed hold of my interest. Did you know that they are the largest known reptile living today? And they are also considered extremely dangerous and aggressive, making them even more scary (to me) than sharks! Their scientific name is Crocodylus porosus, and they can be found in Australia, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh, the Solomon Islands, and along the east coast of India.
They are called “saltwater” crocodiles because they don’t generally hang out in freshwater, although crocodile young are raised in freshwater and they can thrive in freshwater if need be. They like brackish water (meaning has some salt but not as much as seawater) best as adults and can usually be found in waters that are near rivers and coasts. Mangrove swamps are a huge habitat for saltwater crocodiles.
Male crocodiles can reach long lengths of 20 feet! Although there have been cases of some reaching up to 27 feet in length in the wild, this is rare, and females generally only grow up to 10 feet. This still makes for a very large reptile and the males can weigh up to 2,900 pounds.
Their nostrils, eyes, and ears are all located elevated along the top of their head, so they can breathe, see and hear all while staying practically completely submerged and out of sight. They spend little time on land, so this is perfect for their lifestyle.
Another interesting fact is how their eggs hatch. Forty to sixty eggs are laid in each nest (generally from November to March) and they hatch about 90 days later. The interesting part, is that the baby crocodiles become male or female depending on what temperature the eggs are kept at! If the eggs are above 32 degrees Celsius, the crocodiles will become male, and if they are below 30 degrees Celsius, they will become females! However, only 1% or less of the hatchlings will survive to maturity.
I think everyone is probably aware that they have a reputation for being “man-eaters.” Well, they don’t go out of their way to eat humans – but if humans are in their territory, they are considered fair game as far as food goes! They kill 1 to 2 people per year in Australia. Their food includes just about anything they can overpower, including other reptiles, birds, buffalo, wild boars, monkeys, cows, humans, etc. They hunt by using their famous “death roll,” which involves the crocodile grabbing its prey in its jaws (which are extremely powerful) and rolling over and over in the water. This both crushes its victims and can drown them.
One event that really caught my eye was the Battle of Ramree Island. Apparently in 1945 about 1,000 Japanese soldiers were surrounded by British soldiers and had nowhere to retreat other than into the inland swamps. They spent the night traversing the swamps to get to safety and about 400 of them were thought to have been killed by the native crocodiles. It is considered “The Greatest Disaster Suffered from Animals” in the Guinness World Records! It is pretty hard to fathom something like that happening.
So, as an end thought – if you are ever in areas where wild saltwater crocodiles are plentiful, be careful and follow local crocodile safety guidelines!
Though these large and dangerous animals are not pets, there are many types of lizards and other reptiles that are great to keep as pets. Check out Animal-World’s Reptiles, Amphibians, and Land Invertebrate page if you are interested in more information.
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Cotton Top Tamarin
Have you heard?! Just recently, a group of scientists discovered a new species of monkey in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. It was discovered when scientists went into an area of forest that is not well known and saw these new monkeys as well as several other endangered species living there.
The biologist that is credited with the discovery is Julio Dalponte. He went on a 590 mile expedition into a little-explored area that covered 590 miles between the Roosevelt River and the Guariba River. These apparently are the major and most important rivers in the area of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.
The new monkey species discovered is a species of titi monkey with different colored markings displayed on its tail and head, with these new markings never before seen on monkeys from the same group. To learn more about this discovery, check out the World Wildlife Foundation story here: New Monkey Species Discovered in the Amazon
Ecologists, zoologists, and other animal scientists frequently enter the wilderness to study their main subject; animals. They patiently sit there and wait for animals to pass by so they can examine how they behave in their natural habitat, and they’ve been doing this for years.
However, observing animals in the wild doesn’t have to be so scientific. Every animal lover can do it. In fact, animal observation has become a popular camping activity, you actually don’t have to be an animal expert. But you should keep in mind the following:
1. Find a good spot.
A good spot is somewhere that not too many humans enter, but, for safety’s sake, isn’t too far away from your hiking or camping area. So how do you know you’re in a good spot? Head for the main trail and if you see more animal footprints than human tracks, then that’s probably good spot. It’s also a good practice to veer off from the main trail, but not stray too far away from it or you might find yourself wandering around, lost in the middle of nowhere. If you have chosen a specific animal to observe, however, conduct some research first to find out which areas it frequents.
2. Build a good blind.
A blind is anything you can use to hide yourself from the animals so you don’t disturb and scare them. It can range from a pile of undergrowth to something as complicated as a store-bought blind that you can assemble and camouflage with branches, twigs, leaves, and stones. If you’re not into hard-core scientific observation and are just into this for pleasure, you can simply tie a piece of sturdy rope across two neighboring trees and lean long branches against the rope.
3. Blend in and be patient.
Try waiting for a couple of days before you go back to your blind. This will allow the animals to get accustomed to it and not get too suspicious about the newly put up structure.
When you decide to return to your blind, be sure that you are not intrusive and that you completely blend in. Wear clothes the same color of nature and do not wear any cologne or perfume. Animals have a very sensitive sense of smell and they can sniff the presence of any intruder right away. It’s also important that you patiently and quietly sit inside your blind while you wait for an animal to come ambling by.
4. Document your observations.
If you are planning to do this again in the future, it’s a good practice to keep a record of what you have observed. Animals follow a fairly rigid schedule so it will be easier for you to catch one passing you by the next time you decide to observe animals in the wild again. Bring a notebook with you and take down notes of the times you saw animals of interest, how many were there and which direction they were heading.
You could also set up a motion-sensing camera that could record the movement of the animals when they pass by. I would personally go for the notebook though – there’s nothing like a high-tech gadget to take away the natural feel of it all!
On Earth Day, this Friday, April 22nd, 2011, the film “African Cats” by Disneynature is hitting theaters!
This is a great and fun way to help “Save the Savanna” in Africa!
The “See ‘African Cats,’ Save the Savanna” initiative is Disneynature’s pledge to donate a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales during opening week (April 22-28) to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. This is to help ensure the future of lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, giraffes and a host of other animals in the vibrant African savanna. The AWF will be working to protect the Amboseli Wildlife Corridor, a passage between the Amboseli, Tsavo West and Chyulu Hills National Parks that is frequently used by a variety of wildlife.
Moviegoers have already bought $1.7 million in tickets to see the movie during its opening week (April 22-28) and save the African Savanna in the process.
The storyline features large cat species native to Africa, including lions and cheetahs. It follows the lion cub Mara who desires to grow up and be strong like her mother, the cheetah mother Sita as she raises her five babies, and Fang – the leader of the pride who must defend his family from rivals.
“See ‘African Cats,’ Save the Savanna” continues Disneynature’s conservation efforts, which began with its first release, “Earth” (2009), for which three million trees were planted in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. The program in support of “Oceans” (2010) helped establish 40,000 acres of marine protected areas in The Bahamas, which contain miles of vital coral reef.
The African Cats Video can be seen here at this Disney Site.
Hope you enjoy!